Home sweet home

HUNTSVILLE — Brenda Welch-Nichols, head coach the past four years at Mercer University in Macon, GA, is the new head women’s basketball coach at Sam Houston State University, Director of Athletics Bobby Williams has announced.

Nichols is a 1988 Sam Houston graduate, earning All-Southland Conference honors in both 1987 and 1988 in women’s basketball. In her two seasons as a Bearkat, she averaged 17.8 points and 6.5 rebounds to rank 10th in SHSU women’s career scoring with 923 points. She holds a 131-131 career record at four-year schools and an 80-69 mark at the junior college level.

“Brenda Welch-Nichols is a proven NCAA Division I head coach and we’re extremely excited she and her family are returning to Sam Houston State,” Williams said. “She knows what it takes to build a program at this level.

With her knowledge of the game and her background in this area, we believe Brenda is the coach who can take this program to a higher level.”

Nichols built Mercer into a front-runner in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Last year, the Bears reached the semifinals of the conference tournament, losing by five points in overtime after upsetting number three seed East Tennessee State in the first round.

The Bears reached the Atlantic Sun tournament in each of Nichols’ four seasons at Mercer and were 41-35 in league play. Last year in non-league action, Mercer beat Pacific, Southern Mississippi, and New Orleans.

Previously, Nichols served as an assistant at South Alabama and Memphis and was head coach at Okaloosa-Walton Community College and Western Texas Junior College. She worked as an assistant coach at Pensacola Junior College when Sam Houston men’s basketball head coach Bob Marlin was men’s coach there.

“My family and I are so excited to be returning to Sam Houston State where we got our start,” Nichols said. “My husband Barry and I are both Sam Houston graduates and met on the campus in Huntsville. I had a great two years at Sam and have always been a Bearkat at heart. It’s exciting to be coming home.”

While at Mercer, Nichols played a strong national schedule. During her tenure, the Bears have faced opponents from powerhouse conferences like the ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, Pac-10, Big 10, and WAC. Her teams have played in tournaments from Michigan to Iowa and Texas to Wisconsin.

She has a reputation as a community leader. Nichols is on the Board of Directors for the Girls Scouts of Middle Georgia, is youth director at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church and helps with area churches and day cares.

She has also served on the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

In addition to her successes on the court, Nichols has also pioneered many community programs. She has instituted numerous community outreach programs, such as BearTalk and the Bears’ Mentoring Program. BearTalk allows players to visit local schools and speak on topics that include academics, time management, study skills, sportsmanship, respect, setting goals, healthy eating habits and the typical day of a Mercer student-athlete.

The Bears’ Mentoring Program matches players with successful businesswomen in the community, giving them a role model and a friend that will help the player to excel both on and off the court.

“I believe it is important for my team to be involved in athletics, in the classroom and in the community,” Nichols said. “With that in mind, BearTalk is one way for our student-athletes to give back to the community.”

Before arriving at Mercer, Nichols served as an assistant at South Alabama and Memphis. Before her move to Division I, Nichols spent five seasons as a head coach in the junior college ranks. She spent three seasons at Okaloosa-Walton Community College, finishing with a 63-27 record and two second-place finishes in the Panhandle Conference. Her 1998-99 squad earned a national ranking as high as fifth and a trip to the NJCAA Regional Tournament.

Her first head coaching job was at the school where she began her college career, Western Texas. She coached there for two seasons before moving to Okaloosa-Walton. Her first coaching experience was at Pensacola Junior College where she served as an assistant for four seasons and helped lead the team to three conference titles in her four years there.

Nichols began her collegiate career playing at Western Texas in 1985. She lettered two seasons for the Dusters, was named an NJCAA All-American and led her team to a fourth-place national finish. While at Western Texas, she set the school record for most points scored in a game with 44.

Nichols then transferred to Sam Houston State in 1987. While at Sam Houston, she averaged 19.2 points per game and was named to the all-conference team.

She also was a sprinter on the track team.

While working at Pensacola Junior College, Nichols completed a master’s degree in health, leisure and sports/physical education at the University of West Florida in 1992.

The Jennings, La., native is the daughter of Dan and Clara Welch, who reside in Tulsa, Okla.

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